Looking back, my art practice and MS were connected from the start. My first relapse was, at the time (like many of us), dismissed as anything serious. I was in the middle of completing my art degree and spent countless hours everyday hunched over my drafting table as I raced to finish my thesis in time. When I noticed a pins and needles feeling in my dominant hand I figured it was just overworked. When the tingling didn’t go away after a couple weeks I checked in with my doctor who agreed it was probably nothing serious. I wore a brace when not drawing and the feeling slowly went away. I completed my thesis (numbness be damned), graduated, forgot about the odd feeling in my hand, and focused on the life ahead of me.
A year later, the feeling was back. Same hand, but this time it moved up my arm and right leg. Working as a server, I struggled jotting down legible food orders. In my art practice, my lines were off and wobbly. After spending years devoted to creating meticulous work by hand, my hand and I were not on the same page. I am very grateful for many things about my diagnosis: catching it early, manageable symptoms, an unfailing support system of loved ones. But the fear of losing my lifelong passion was terrifying.
It was at my third MRI after my diagnosis that a nurse recommended the OMS program; she wrote it on a scrap of paper, and slid it under the door of the changing room. I didn’t know at the time how much that note would change my life. It was through the OMS recovery plan that I found specific steps forward in living with MS. I was able to face my diagnosis with optimism and understanding. When I was overwhelmed and discouraged the program gave me clarity and hope. Like my art practice, it has become crucial to how I take care of myself.
Finding strength through the community
Which isn't to say that it is always easy. Some days the last thing I want to do is muster the energy to work on a new painting or throw together a flax oil smoothie. Even knowing how much happier I am when creating art and living a healthy lifestyle, it can feel like work. Which is why I often rely on one of the best parts of OMS to remain uplifted: the community. Connecting with other people who know what you are going through is invaluable. The positive effect it has had on my outlook has driven me to foster community in other aspects of my life, including my art. Recently, I have put together a small group of creators, artists, and writers. We meet to talk through the highs and lows of our creative practice. Finding support and perspective from other folks with similar experiences.
It can be hard to remember to show up for yourself, but by prioritizing my art practice and OMS lifestyle I have learned to protect my own happiness and health. Putting some of the control back into my own hands.